"New Avengers" #7 from Jonathan Hickman and Mike Deodato continues to advance the grander Incursion epic in the background of a quieter, more personal story that seems a long time in the making. This issue presents interactions and repercussions from the series to date, giving readers a chance to be a fly on the wall in conversations between the Black Panther and Namor, Doctor Doom and Reed Richards as well as Maximus and Black Bolt. The only Incursion-related story movement is a casual conversation about the duration between Incursion events and mention of Beast taking a shift working with the Black Swan.
Hickman performs nicely in scripting the personal moments between these characters. The writer drops in enough quick scene changes to keep the story moving forward despite the lack of actual action in this issue. Doom knows something is afoot and aims to learn more. Panther and Namor do not conclude their discussion. Even the Inhumans become aware of more than they can see, despite their own king's silence. Hickman boils the emotion in these scenes to make them feel like action, which makes the lack of fisticuffs a bit of a letdown. This title is "New Avengers," so I'd like to see some avenging soon.
What I do see in "New Avengers" #7 is an artistic change from Steve Epting to new penciler Mike Deodato. I'm not Deodato's biggest fan, but he is a nice fit for the Illuminati. Each of these characters is distinct enough to play to Deodato's style nicely. Unfortunately, each of their female counterparts who appear in this book is depicted navel-up so we get some bizarre composition and awkward anatomy to remind us that Deodato is not as realistically grounded as Epting. Still, Deodato's lines have energy to them that simply was not present in Epting's work. Colorists Frank Martin and Rain Beredo join Deodato with this issue, but adhere to the hues already established in the previous half-dozen issues. The book is still very dark visually, but that plays to the doom, gloom and subterfuge Hickman is crafting this story around.
"New Avengers" #7 might not be as severe towards the outcome of the series as a whole or to its larger place in the grand tapestry of the Marvel Universe as "Infinity" nears, but these smaller, personal moments help readers reconnect with the characters. While Black Panther has proven ineffective in holding a title of his own recently, Hickman's work with the character here as well as in "Fantastic Four" and "FF" has rekindled hope in that regard. If nothing else, we're at least guaranteed more of Hickman writing some significant developments in the life of the King of the Dead.